Arts Therapy Clinic-Children in Crisis-CAMBODIA

by The Ragamuffin Project
Jun 15, 2012

Cambodian Arts Therapists Develop Unique Approach with Young People

Thank You!
Thank You!

Message from Carrie Herbert and Kit Loring - Directors of Arts Therapy Services, Ragamuffin International

August 2012 will bring us to the end of our 2-year pilot programme of Ragamuffin's Creative Arts Therapy Clinic for traumatised and distressed children, families and communities in Cambodia. 

Ragamuffin’s critical incident and emergency de-briefing and staff-support for front line humanitarian organisations continues in response to demand in the region

As we come towards the end of a funding cycle in August, the need for our services in Cambodia is only increasing in a context where trauma is endemic and the incidence of trafficking, abuse and exploitation continues to rise. Unless we obtain ongoing funding -  critical and much needed services will need to be cut back - so your support at this time remains so very important.

The future of the Arts Therapy Clinic

Obtaining funding for the ongoing sustainability of the clinic continues to be a challenge. The areas of mental health and Arts Therapy are notoriously underfunded globally. The challenge to Ragamuffin is how our services can meet the demand and continue to grow and strengthen in such a climate. The clinic service has met such a need amongst vulnerable children and young adult and has only just begun to take root. The following are some of the thoughts and reflections from the clinical team as we continue to promote the continuation of this work and work hard to secure its future in the same way that we are seeking to secure the future of the lives of marginalized and traumatised children and young people.


“As I am a Khmer citizen as well as an Arts Therapist with Ragamuffin, I am really please and proud that a clinic such as Ragamuffin exists in Cambodia.  The Ragamuffin Project is the only clinic providing a professional standard of Arts Therapy in Cambodia. I have worked with so many children that make me realize how much suffering they endure. Trauma affects the quality of their lives because these children are living with suffering that penetrates deeply on their soul and their inner strength. Moreover, there are many children that could not safe at all. Ehen they  they have chance of healing at the Arts Therapy clinic of Ragamuffin, I can comprehend positive change of them since they can use the inner strength from oneself.


If Clinic Therapy of Ragamuffin is ends in August, it is the most regret ever for me as well as many children in Cambodia as it would be a tremendous loss for them. I do not want the trauma to continue from generation after generation, it makes my heart ache. When I have worked with those children, they have told me that coming here to “Ragamuffin” means so much to them, moreover, this place is not only a beautiful place, but it also provides them a peaceful, safe place of healing that they have never had. This place it’s a place where they can truly be themselves and recover their heart and soul.


I hope this Clinic will continue to receive funding in order to continue helping children in Cambodia and provide them a chance to explore, express, and acknowledge their emotions, their world and work through the issues that cause them so much distress. Ragamuffin work allows traumatized children the ability to search deep within themselves and help them gain inner strength and confidence”. (Panchakna Khlok)


“I think it is so important for Ragamuffin clinic to be funded for long-term work at least for another 5 years in order to ensure the sufficient healing to the clients. Right now, I have provided ongoing therapy to 36 fragile clients including individual and group work. All my clients are suffer severe depression, anxiety, and behavioural problems that are caused by sexual abuse, domestic violence, addiction, and HIV/AIDS. The clients have found this therapy process as breath and sacred space to look deeply into their inner world that is full of unresolved conflict. And, it also helps them to find new positive relationship between their inside and outside world, and to navigate to new hope and a new way to solve their conflict, and to embrace self-love one again. Therefore, if the therapy process is uncompleted, their journey of self-discovery of finding light is stopped, and this will have strong impact on their courage and hope to move on in life. Sadly some who so need longer term support would go back to the same state of mind and be left with many unprocessed or unresolved issues”. (Serey Samchet – Arts Therapist)

Kit and I and the team here in Cambodia deeply appreciate your support and contribution to our Arts Therapy service for children and families in Cambodia. 

Please see our thank you card attached with the opportunity of how to become a long-term friend of Ragamuffin by joining our partnership scheme – please let us know if that is of interest to you and we will provide further details.

 We are aiming to continue to develop our support base through this scheme and create a network of people around the world who believe not only in the work of Ragamuffin, but also how Creative Arts Therapy can help support those most traumatised in our world.

Your support is important in many shapes and forms...including raising awareness, volunteering with specific skills - like fundraising and web building, through to donations  - which of course can make a real practical difference to the service here.

Most importantly it’s the relationships that matter to us - as this is at the heart of the work we do. People together connected and believing in the gentle power of the Arts and Therapy in helping those with mental health problems.

With gratitude.

Carrie and Kit on behalf of The Ragamuffin Team Cambodia


Development of Arts Therapy Service with M’Lop Tapang Centre for Street and working Children, Kompong Som, Cambodia. An Overview By Rachel Hiskins and Hun Jeudyla - Creative Arts Therapists.


M’Lop Tapang (MTP) and The Ragamuffin Project have been working together since 2004 in the development of capacity of the MTP team in both psychological services and staff support. The clinic partnership started in September 2010.


The mission for this partnership is to strengthen the resilience and internal/eternal resources of the children most at risk who use the MTP services. Together with MTP we aim to also help the reduction of the symptoms of distress, improve self-esteem and confidence, empowerment and social relationships. This partnership will also provide and support MTP staff that provide psychological care and add to the overall culture of care.


Ragamuffin provides:

  • Drop in Therapy service for individual sessions
  • Open Studio Arts Therapy Service for groups
  • Supervision, on the job training and support of MTP staff involved in Arts Therapy and counselling.
  • Ongoing training of MTP staff in Creative Arts Therapy


Reasons for Referral

The referrals stem from a broad range of psychological and behavioural issues, all have poverty as a major contributing factor in the overall well-being of the young people and their families. The Drop in Therapy clients are mainly self-referred which we believe enhanced their commitment and motivation for both the therapeutic process and a desire to develop personally in their lives.  We have been deeply encouraged by the choices young people at MTP are making to use this service. We believe it has  been made possible due to the context and organisation culture of care at MTP which fosters relationships and empowers young people to make positive choices in and for their lives.

Issues that are been addressed in sessions include the following areas: (please note that many of these issues are complex, multifaceted and interlinked – they are are long term and need, as a result, a long term investment in their care and support).


  • Sexual Abuse
  • Physical Abuse
  • Mental/psychological Abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Self esteem and Self-worth
  • Mental Illness
  • Adolescence and child development (sexuality, protection, independence)
  • Relationship challenges and dilemmas
  • Desires, hopes and dreams for the future


Art mediums used include the following: (Arts therapists work responsively with the creativity of a child or young person helping them to strengthen their creativity, innovation, assertiveness and choice, inner resources and literacy in emotions)

  • Drawing
  • Sand tray and play with miniatures and objects
  • Mandalas
  • Puppets
  • Painting
  • Play-dough
  • Body work and movement
  • Breath, relaxation and meditation work


Outcomes from Drop in therapy and Open Studio

From the Drop In therapy, there have been 3 reported child protection cases to MTP. The identification of children at risk and those in existing abusive situations is critical. This has been an area where the partnership and the skill of MTP child protection team has been working effectively to respond and reduce risk of harm wherever possible. Ongoing follow up of these young people has enabled the Ragamuffin team to witness MTP’s child protection policy and team in action.  We are together exploring the development of case conferencing with the Multi-disciplinary team of Child Protection, social workers, and counsellors/therapists so as to strengthen the multi-disciplinary care around children at risk and living in violent or abusive situations.


The clients have begun to develop an understanding of the therapeutic use of the arts, becoming increasingly open and receptive to exploring their own thoughts and feelings through a range of creative media. The children/young people are demonstrating the ability to develop rapport with the team and an increased confidence in attending and participating in sessions. Fort many Arts Therapy is a new experience, this can create some initial anxiety for some children, however, it doesn’t take long for them to understand and trust the process and so discover how their creative voice can empower, motivate and encourage them to be who they are. Over 80% of clients attending the drop in sessions would like to come more frequently to regular arts therapy sessions.


I am happy that I came and played and told my story – my life has many difficult stories”

I am so happy and excited to come here and play and not work on the streets”

I saw my future for the first time”


It is clear that providing the space purely for the client to be listened to and felt heard, allows them to express and begin to understand their own story.


“I want to continue to work with Ragamuffin in the future – its so important for these children and for us – we need to learn more how to give this kind of support to children.” (MTP Staff)


“It’s a very good psychological support and therapy program that can help people to explore themselves and could speak out or express their feelings of stress or suffering through using any form of creative expression, without needing to only focus on talking. I feel comfortable working with my clients when I use Arts Therapy, many are children who love drawing, drama, dancing... is a good way to make them interested with the therapy.”(MTP Staff)


Willderness Therapy Programme Pilot - a new innovative approach in Cambodia

Wilderness Therapist, Lois Woodward from the UK is now working with the Ragamuffin Project and is bringing a new and innovative dimension to our therapeutic service to include the therapeutic use of the outdoors, in adventure, play and outdoor pursuits.

In June 2012 the first wilderness therapy pilot programme will be run my Lois and The Ragamuffin Team with M'Lop Tapang in Kep, Cambodia. The pilot programme is for young people who are living with challenging and distressing life experiences such as domestic violence, poverty and HIV. The pilot wilderness therapy/ creative therapy project will benefit 6 young people suffering from traumatic experiences who will have opportunity to experience an innovative form of therapeutic intervention combining creative arts, adventurous activities, wilderness expedition, camp craft, teambuilding, play, exploration and therapeutic support.

Wilderness Therapy has successfully been used with adolescents ‘at-risk’ of disaffection in the UK (Woodward, 2010) and with traumatised, militarised youth in south Africa (Schell-Faucon, 2001). Wilderness and creative therapies have been combined in programmes to treat young people suffering from addictions and with mental health conditions in the US (Crisp, 1996) this innovative programme, combining wilderness and creative therapies, is the first of its kind to be explored in Cambodia. 

The pilot project will test will the following questions;

  • Can wilderness therapy and Arts Therapy be successfully integrated in a programme to treat young people suffering from trauma in post conflict Cambodia?
  • How do the participating young people view their levels of self-esteem, pre and post intervention?
  • What happens to the participating young people’s levels of involvement as the programme progresses?
  • What happens to participants levels of resilience during the course of the programme?

The programme will be evaluated to inform the design of future creative/wilderness therapy programmes at Ragamuffin Project.

Please contact us if you would like to know more or specifically support this exciting programme.





Crisp, S (1996)  An Investigation of Selected Innovative Mental Health Programs for Adolescents using Wilderness and Adventure Activities as a Primary Therapeutic Modality in the United Kingdom, United States of America and New Zealand. Winston Churchhill fellowship, Melbourne

Schell-Faucon, S (2001) Journey into the Inner Self and Encounter with the Other: Transformation Trails with Militarised Youth of Katorus, Centre for the study of violence and reconciliation.

Woodward, LJ (2010)  How can increased access to the outdoor environment via a 22 week intervention project have positive impact on emotional intelligence and self esteem of young people at-risk of disaffection?, Swansea University






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Organization Information

The Ragamuffin Project

Location: Phnom Penh, NA - Cambodia
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Carrie Herbert
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
$17,035 raised of $50,000 goal
231 donations
$32,965 to go
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